Thursday, December 13, 2012

Finished & Delivered

A precious art teacher who I've had the privilege of working with at the Greenville County Museum of Art asked me a while ago if I could knit a slouchy hat for her to cover her dreadlocks when she does winter car duty at her school.  Since it was just about time for a group of students that she had delivered to begin class, I gave her the keys to my car & told her to root around through the bin of handspun that I had not unloaded from market & throw the skein she liked on the front seat for me to deal with after class.  She'd chosen an awesome green/orange/brown Merino skein.

Later that night I began searching for "slouchy hat" patterns on line.  She was apparently doing the same & we both ended up at the same blog (  ) so it was meant to be.  I only had about 150 yards of the yarn she had chosen so the next time I saw her I brought along a black & white skein of Jacob that I'd spun that week as well as a handful of a pretty off-white Shetland fleece that my sweet husband had shorn just a few days prior.  She chose the Shetland & I got to work. I gently washed the wool but left some lanolin in & spun a very textured yarn.  I was actually splitting my time between knitting with the Merino yarn & spinning the Shetland.  I wanted her to have pretty color around her face & then be able to work the neutral Shetland into the top of the hat to stretch the colored yarn.

I delivered it to her in her classroom this morning.  We actually made a little bit of a show for her students out of the fact that she had asked me to create a project, I had done it to suit her & she was now paying me for my time, materials & skill.  I also took along a sample of the original wool & gave her a picture of some of our Shetland sheep.  In return she paid me & also gifted me with a lovely little tote bag that she had sewn.  The money that I walked out of her school with goes right into the hay fund here & so will go back to the sheep.  All in all, it was a very fulfilling endeavor.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Still Here

I realize it has been months since I have updated the blog.  I haven't a clue where the time has gone.  Saturday Market season is over, I did an Indie Craft Parade Holiday Fair & a trunk show at Wool Over Your Eyes.  And the final "committed" Saturday of our year was taken up by our precious daughter's college graduation!  All is good.

Now I am filling a few orders and tackling the enormous stash of fleeces from our own spring shearing as well as from the other farmers that Al shears for who don't want their wool.  If I look at the stacked bags of fleeces all at once it is overwhelming.  If I pull a bag out, sort it well and put it out to soak and dry the task seems like something I can accomplish.  I spun through the best of a lovely little Shetland fleece just last night.  I needed the yarn to finish knitting a hat so just pressed on.  It looks as though the winter will be spent taking tiny bites out of the elephant-sized stockpile of dirty wool.  And, hopefully, getting back into a more regular blogging routine.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Indie Craft Parade

Indie Craft Parade is over for the year.  It was an awesome 3 day event that I've spent a fair bit of the summer prepping for while still doing my regular farmers' markets, teaching here and there and holding down the farm.  Unfortunately, I was so busy this past weekend that I did not take much at all in the way of pictures.  So this is all I've got - the calm before the crowds!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Esther was ignoring me as I tried to take pictures of the little pumpkin patch growing in the donkey pasture.  Zeke, in the background, was also pretending not to know that I know they have been eating blossoms off of the plants.
This is one of two volunteer pumpkin patches that sprung up on manure piles.  Usually the donkeys don't bother the pumpkins until they are fully ripe and in the past they have ignored the entire plants. This year, however, they've finally realized how tasty those pretty flowers can be.  They nibble them right off at the top of the stem.
They have missed a few.  This one might yet get a chance to fruit.  It makes no difference to me except for amusement - should the pumpkins mature I would let the donkeys eat them anyway or carry them over to the oxen yard.  It is just another fun thing to observe on my morning rounds.
And next time I'm out I'll flick the sleepy sand out of the corner of Esther's eyes.  Both donkeys stand quietly at the gate as I clean at their eyes each morning.  They love the attention, usually pushing each other around to see who can get their turn first.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


We ran by the farm of our sweet friends, Jeff & Kim, yesterday.  Jeff had a few bushel baskets of cull watermelons for us.  When we got back to the house I shared many of them with the oxen and donkeys but left two bushels next to my car.  This morning I discovered that Buddy & Bart, the two sheep who are currently in the front yard, had spent a little time working at the melons.  This is Buddy doing a bit more sampling.
I decided that rather than let the two sheep eat a bushel of melons a piece I'd share some with the Dexter cattle.  I flipped a few over the fence and walked to the stable to fish some newly dyed wool out of a pot.  When I returned I discovered that Ravi, one of our Anatolian Shepherds, had been disturbed by the melon and felt he had to protect his livestock from it.  He buried it.
I have no idea exactly what he was thinking but he looks very content with his work.  Perhaps he feared the "bloody" look of the inside of the melon would draw predators. Or perhaps I'm giving him too much credit for his reasoning skills and he was just being a stinker so that the cattle couldn't enjoy all of their treat.  Either way, he had carefully raked pine needles up and covered the melon pieces.  I sure wish I would have seen him doing it.  He's one interesting fellow!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Doing Their Job

Our Livestock Guardian Dogs are fascinating.  It is amazing to see how protective and perhaps even tender they are with the animals they are to protect.  The other morning I went out to do some chores and noticed the geese were distressed.  I could see the gander and one of his geese in the back yard but they were separated which is unusual.  I didn't see the other goose.  The ones I found were anxiously turning their heads and almost sneaking around the yard.  The two LGDs who happened to be in the yard with them at the time were acting like they usually do so I didn't think they had been chasing or misbehaving toward the geese.  I walked all around and finally came upon the other goose hiding in the grapevines.  Her feathers were ruffled and she seemed a little disoriented but when I walked her out she rejoined the other two.

As I walked the yard to figure out what had happened I found small piles of goose feathers in several spots.  The last spot was right against the woven wire fence that is part of the oxen pasture.  The neighbor's woods are on the other side of the oxen pasture.  It looked as if something had tried to drag the goose across the yard but left her behind at the fence.

We had heard a little commotion with the dogs in the night but it ended rather quickly so we didn't go out.  Sometimes they bark when they hear the hound up the hill baying so we don't always jump up at the first noise.

We watched the geese the rest of the day.  The goose who'd apparently been attacked showed no external signs of injury but continued to lag behind the other two geese and seemed disoriented.  That night we heard the dogs again so Al immediately went out.  All of the dogs were in their appropriate pastures.  The dog that had been in with the geese was right against the oxen fence barking towards the woods.  Every other dog on the property was up at the edge of its pasture also barking towards the woods.  We believe we had a fox visit.  That would also explain the goose incident from the day before as the fox would have dropped the goose and run once the dogs started after it.

The goose was dead the next morning.  We let her lay out for a bit so that her companions would realize that she had died and would not search for her.  Later in the day I walked out to discover that the dogs had done their very best to bury her body.  Although it is not a pretty picture, I am amazed at their desire to protect the rest of the animals in their pasture by hiding a dead body that might draw predators.  Years ago when one of the cows died of old age down in the woods we discovered Regina, our oldest LGD working hard to hide her in the pine needles.  God has certainly programmed them to do a remarkable job in trying to care for their charges.  And it looks like time to do a little fox hunting here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Well, There You Go.....

This is not where Ravi, our male Anatolian Shepherd, belongs.  He likes to take his supper in the old barn where no one can bother him and I usually leave him a bit to enjoy the peace and quiet.  He scaled the newly-loaded-in hay bales and managed to make it to the loft.  I rounded the corner from gathering eggs to be greeted with this picture.

I went inside and tried to coax him down the very narrow stairs that run up to the loft but he would have none of that.  I didn't think it would be wise to try to drag him down as he is one big fellow and I don't have time to recuperate from tumbling backwards down a set of stairs.  I went on with my chores.  A half of an hour later he was down at the main door waiting to be let out to resume his duties.  Although he ate in the old barn again yesterday I don't believe he went up to the loft again.  And if he did, he managed to find his way back down without my knowing about it and worrying.  That would, however, be a wonderful perch for him to survey part of his kingdom from.....

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Not quite two years ago we acquired Betsy and Bitsy, ewe sisters from up in North Carolina.  I found them on craigslist, the woman was seemingly losing her farm and the fact that they were Border Leicester/Cotswold crosses seemed intriguing as I just knew they'd have pretty fleece.  They were grossly overweight from being fed mostly grain.   We brought them home, put them on nice pasture on a hillside for lots of exercise and cut out their grain.  They have thrived  They really are dolls and I adore their lovely curly fleece.  I'd dyed a bucket load of it in the winter but had gotten busy and set it aside.  I fluffed some up yesterday.
I put the fuzzy heap in my lap, pulled up my wheel and began to spin.  I plyed the yarn, popped it in a bucket of hot water and then flipped it out on the clothesline.  I am quite happy with the final 29 yards of curly shiny yarn.  I really need to get back to picking and dyeing the rest of their fleece.  And we'll see how long this skein lasts on the market rack.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


The first 4 ounces of the purple blue roving is spun up - I've got over 200 yards so far.  It is always fun to start with the dyeing to see what happens.  This is what it was last week.  I'm sure you can see the resemblance!

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Little Dyeing & A Big Blessing

I got the word today that I have been accepted as a vendor at Indie Craft Parade!  This will be my 3rd year as a vendor and it is a remarkable weekend.  It is a lot of fun and also adds a nice bit of money to help with the winter feed bills.  Ironically, I had just walked in from starting a few more dye vats when I checked e-mail and got the great news.  So here are some "in process" dye pictures.  And it looks like I'd best get a bit more in process to be ready for September!
I'll follow up in a few days with the finished roving and (hopefully) the handspun yarn.  And I should have taken a few pictures of the multicolored puddles on the table when I removed the wrapped roving.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

New Chicks

We were expecting our chick order on Monday which was going to make for a very rushed day.  The post office calls me early in the morning, I run to our small local post office and then spend an hour or so getting everyone settled in.  It can be time consuming as each little beak must be dipped into its first drink of water and we had ordered 112 chicks.  I have a morning appointment and sweet husband has a meeting so there would have been little time to spare.

As I was reading the Sunday paper my cell phone rang.  I did not recognize the number.  I was surprised when it was someone calling from the post office's main distribution center over in Greenville.  He told me the chicks were in and that I could pick them up today or wait for them to be sent out to our local branch tomorrow.  Of course, we agreed to go into Greenville to pick up the birds.  Within the hour we had our chicks and were busily preparing to start them on their life here.

We use empty watering troughs for brooders so we cleaned out the troughs, hung the heat lamps, lined the troughs with paper towel and added waterers and feeders.  As we carried the crates of chickens back to the stable the geese noticed us and were intrigued by the chirping boxes.  We put down the boxes to see what the geese would do.  They were interested but also a little nervous.  They looked and hissed but never got any closer than this.
We carried the chicks on and carefully unpacked them.  Each little one needs its beak dipped in water for its first drink.  We also count as we unload the boxes and discovered we had one spare pullet.
It took a while but we got all of them settled in.  They will grow rapidly and we will add another trough when they need more room. Before long they will be ready to put outside in a pen until they are old enough to join the rest of the hens who range wherever they want around the farm.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Time Flies!

I have been horrible about updating the blog!  When I ask the animals if they prefer to be fed or prefer to have their pictures posted they always let their stomachs make the decision.  Lambing and kidding are done but the Saturday Market is in full swing so that takes a good bit of time.

Our lamb count for the season is five new Shetland lambs, nine other lambs who will be producing lovely fiber and two goat kids.  Just last week we caught up on everyone's vaccinations and tagging.  Mothers are much more laid back as their maturing offspring take long jaunts off by themselves, only checking in for an occasional quick nursing.
We had a hatch of goslings this week.  Four originally hatched but one disappeared in the night.  We never found a trace of it which makes us believe that a skunk left with it.  We had smelled a skunk in the night and have lost young poultry to them in the past.  So now our trio of adult geese are minding three young.  We have Pilgrim Geese which are a sex-link breed so it is not too hard to determine gender when they are still young.  It looks like we have two females and a male.  Two days after the main hatch one more gosling emerged.  The adults originally showed interest in it but then abandoned it.  We found it hiding behind a fence so helpfully returned it to the little family.  Two of the adults immediately tried to murder it so it is now safely in the house.  We will see what its little future holds but I could not let it be torn to bits.
We have also had a new Dexter calf born.  Lynn emerged from the woods with it Saturday but we are thinking it was probably born on Friday.  It is a sleek, healthy and friendly little bullock.  Lynn is a good mother and also has a great temperament.  She is, of course, protective of her young but is trusting of us so carefully has been sharing the little guy so we can fawn over him.
And there are always the day to day unexpected mishaps. Gates, one of our 16 year old oxen, decided to unwarp the round hay bale all by himself.  He managed to make this whole mess in little less than an hour but fortunately stood patiently for Al to cut him loose.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Bud is a five year old Tunis wether who pretty well believes he is in charge of the farm.
He wants to go into every pasture and even manages to sneak his way into the front yard regularly.  He usually just barges through when we open a gate.  He knows it will be especially easy if I am trying to get through the gate with a bucket or two of newly-gathered eggs.  I can't really push him back without risking the eggs.  He loves to spend time in either the barnyard or the backyard but lately he constantly bothers us to get into the backyard and this is why.  The peaches are just beginning to ripen. He checks daily for low hanging fruit.

He then begins to shake the branches to knock down what he can't reach.
And he finishes up with a little dancing routine where he balances gracefully on his hind legs while plucking just a few more.
I believe that if we want any peaches this season I'll have to either be more diligent at the gate or find a ladder to pick my own.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


We are already behind in rainfall for the year so are taking the opportunity to buy as much hay as we can from the season's early cuttings.  We have a great hay man who goes out of his way to take care of us so every time he bales we buy.  He has a few buddies who hang around and work the field at baling time so that loading right out of the field is as easy as can be.  He has even loaned us one of his fellows to help unload the hay into our barn so that we could manage yet another load on a day.  The last time that the fellows were baling I could not go along to drive the truck.  One of the buddies who hangs around is in his 80's so he drove the truck rather than walking along beside the trailer and handing bales up to my husband who stacks them.  They have such a good time, the hay gets handled and we have happy livestock.

Everyone here is very well fed but they never get over the excitement of a trailer load of new hay showing up.  The oxen who are housed at the front of the farm prance and bellow as we pull in the drive.  Then we go through the process of going through several gates, moving animals along the way and trying hard not to squish anyone as they prance along beside the trailer, often snatching mouthfuls of hay on the run.  We do try to keep most of the goats and sheep out of the barnyard but a few always manage to slip in.  The chickens, which are truly free range, gradually begin to realize that there are tasty oats dropping off of that nice hay.  They may stay out of the way while the hay is unloaded but many move in as soon as the trailer is moved.  They pick the oats clean in a very short time.

And I must confess that I love the smell of fresh hay and am always so grateful to have the barns loaded.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Chilly Morning

It was in the low 40's this morning but also quite windy.  I wandered around doing my morning check of everyone and decided to take a few pictures of their attempts to warm up.  No one was miserable but obviously a few looked like they were appreciating the warmth that reflects off of the barn wall as the sun shines on it.  And there is nothing better than mamas snuggling with their babies.  Of course, a few of the creatures were doing their morning scratching and stretching as well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

There is no catching up....

But I can hope!

Now that my seven weeks in the public schools as artist in residence is over, I am really trying to catch up on fiber.  Just a few weeks ago we sheared a small flock of Jacob so I decided to wash one of those fleeces.  I don't mind spinning "in the grease" but decided to give this fleece a quick soak and rinse so that I could work at my wheel in the house without leaving an enormous dirt pile at my feet.

We were terribly blessed several years ago when the head chef at the Hyatt asked if we had any use for the two enormous 40 gallon stainless steel steam kettles that were being replaced.  They are amazing!  They even have a mechanism that tilts them all the way over to dump.  They are simply perfect for soaking fleeces.
Since we live in an area with red clay in the soil, the first rinse is usually just an orange mud.
Since this fleece is not too greasy, I was content with two simple soaks and then laid it out to dry.  I am hoping that, since it is a warm and sunny day, I can begin to spin it up into a pretty natural colored yarn by tomorrow.